In pilot program, Stanford to offer ‘gender neutral’ housing options for 2008-09

In an effort to better serve transgender students and to offer more choices to students who want to live with friends of the opposite sex, Stanford will offer "gender neutral" housing options to sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students starting autumn quarter.

The one-year pilot program will be offered during the 2008-09 academic year in five residences: Narnia and Terra (Row houses), Castaño (an upper-class residence hall), Mirrielees (an undergraduate apartment complex) and Rains (a graduate student apartment building).

Rodger Whitney, executive director of student housing, said Stanford chose those five residences for the pilot program because they provide privacy in living and bathroom spaces, including private bedrooms, lockable bathrooms and shower stalls with private changing areas.

There will be no changes in the undergraduate housing draw or the graduate housing lottery as a result of the pilot program, he said.

Under the program, upper-class students will enter the draw as usual and list any or all of the four undergraduate residences as housing choices. Once students are assigned to one of the houses, they will have the option of requesting a roommate of another gender through the in-house draw.

Graduate students taking part in the pilot program will make their requests through the graduate room assignment process.

Whitney, who served as chair of the Gender Neutral Task Force, which developed the pilot program, said no students would be randomly assigned to a mixed-gender room or apartment. He emphasized that the new program was not designed for romantic couples. The housing option will not be available in freshman residences or in four-class houses.

Transgender students may apply for campus housing through the pilot program or through an existing confidential process.

Whitney led the 15-member task force, which was convened last spring by Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost for residential and dining enterprises, and Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs.

"Stanford takes great pride in the variety of housing alternatives available to students and in the rich residential experience that results when communities are centered on principles of diversity and respect for individual differences," Boardman said.

The task force included five senior university staff and 10 students, including Associated Students President Hershey Avula, who described the pilot program as a "wonderful step in the right direction."

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, more than 30 campuses across the country have adopted gender-neutral housing policies, including Dartmouth College, Wesleyan University and Oregon State University.

Currently, all student residences are coed at Stanford, except fraternities and sororities, and one all-female house. In most residences, men and women live on the same floor.